I’m the first in line for the rollercoaster and I blindly do as the carnie says and take a seat in the very first car. I don’t know the best strategy for riding one of these things. Apparently if you sit in the back, you get the most air time, whatever that means. If you sit in the front it’s the most hair raising and exciting (debatable). The middle is ideally where I should have been, lost in the pack where the ride is the mildest. If the rollercoaster is full, the ride goes faster and since this is a mental health rollercoaster, it’s full of riders…
Late teens and early twenties are an interesting time. You’re trying to find yourself, what you want, who you want to be. For me, I just wanted to be out of my house and my small hometown. My depression would come and go but overall I think I faked being happy pretty good. I was a people pleaser, a class clown, trying to make others feel happy when I felt like I was drowning.
Robin Williams nailed it when he said,
‘I think the saddest people always try their hardest to make people happy because they know what it’s like to feel absolutely worthless and they don’t want anyone else to feel like that.’
That was exactly what I was doing. Being that person, always ‘on’, always performing for the benefit of others. It’s exhausting. I don’t know if other mental health sufferers feel that pressure to put on a mask but I did.
By my mid-twenties I was in what many would perceive, a pretty good place in life. I had married my high school sweetheart, we moved to a big city, bought a house and had good jobs. We travelled a bit, had hobbies and a good circle of friends. From the outside looking in, we had it all. That’s the funny thing about houses though, they can look fine from the outside, all pretty with a nice yard. But behind closed doors, there can be cracks in the foundation or toxic mold in the walls, compromising the integrity of the structure.
There are bumps in any relationship but I hit a mountain. The more successful he became at work, the colder and meaner he got at home. The more isolated I became and my self esteem plummeted. Things that we had once talked about such as starting a family were no longer on the table for him and that was crushing. It wasn’t long before I was crying every day, despondent. More and more there were cracks eating away at my mask.
The rollercoaster is slowly click-clacking up the steep incline at this point in my story. My hands are gripping the steel bar in front of me. My heart is pumping and suddenly everything seems out of my control. We’re creeping towards the top of the tracks and I have no idea what comes after it…